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Here's why you should read The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers


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The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet started out as a cult novel, self-published by Becky Chambers after a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2012. Now it’s taken the space opera genre by storm, with a third instalment to the Wayfarers series set to release later this year.

Two years ago, the only science-fiction I managed to digest was infused with a hefty side of comedy. Every time I laid eyes on a ‘hard’ SF novel in a book shop, covers adorned with spaceships and a long, usually male, author’s name with at least two initials, I veered away from the shelf. Becky Chambers’ first novel is what changed my outlook forever. If you’re not a sci-fi fan, don’t worry - this book will probably appeal to you regardless.

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet centres first around Rosemary, a woman desperate to escape her past by accepting a job on the Wayfarer, a run-down spaceship specialising in creating hyperspace tunnels for fast travel through the stars. On board, she meets the ship’s eclectic, multi-species crew, including the reptilian Sissix, and the ship’s AI, Lovelace. When the crew are invited to a mysterious job tunnelling to a distant planet that has only a fragile peace treaty with the rest of the galaxy, so begins an interplanetary adventure exploring friendships, romance, and witty social commentary.

The novel features a hugely diverse cast, slightly reminiscent of the Mass Effect video game series, with a gentle focus on a whole bunch of different relationships, races, and sexualities. There’s lesbian, polyamorous romance, there’s a human who falls in love with the ship’s computer, there are lasting platonic friendships. The Long Way deals with gender and sexuality in a utopian light, and does so respectfully, without becoming bogged down in overt social critique.

While the novel features a lot of typical science-fiction tropes, they blend seamlessly into a character-driven background. The fast plot never hinders character development - rather, it drives it. We get to experience the fast-paced adventure of space travel - bustling galactic markets and distant colony worlds - through the eyes and narratives of a varied cast, which is the thing that really sets the novel apart.

Even in 2018, it’s still rare to find a female author amongst the reams of men writing in the SF genre. Chambers follows in the footsteps of legends like Octavia Butler and Ursula Le Guin, crafting an optimistic, diverse, and genuinely fun space opera. With the prevalence of dystopias like Black Mirror and The Handmaid’s Tale owning today’s market, there’s nothing better than cozying up with a comforting novel - and The Long Way is the perfect book to do that with.

The sequel, A Closed and Common Orbit, was published in 2016, with the third book, Record of a Spaceborn Few arriving in July this year.


A Closed and Common Orbit - Becky Chambers
The Wrong Stars - Tim Pratt
An Unkindness of Ghosts - Rivers Solomon

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